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Yaaba (1989)

 -  Drama | Family  -  6 October 1989 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 357 users  
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A small African village. The story focuses on Bila, a ten year old boy who befriends an old woman, Sana. Everybody calls her 'Witch' but Bila himself calls her 'Yaaba' (grandmother). When ... See full summary »


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Title: Yaaba (1989)

Yaaba (1989) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Complete credited cast:
Fatimata Sanga ...
Noufou Ouédraogo ...
Roukietou Barry ...
Adama Ouédraogo ...
Amadé Toure ...
Sibidou Ouédraogo ...
Adame Sidibe ...
Rasmane Ouedraogo ...
Kinda Moumouni ...
Assita Ouedraogo ...
Zenabou Ouedraogo ...
Ousmane Sawadogo ...


A small African village. The story focuses on Bila, a ten year old boy who befriends an old woman, Sana. Everybody calls her 'Witch' but Bila himself calls her 'Yaaba' (grandmother). When Bilas cousin Nopoko gets sick it is Sana's medicine who saves her. Written by Mattias Thuresson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Family


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Release Date:

6 October 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Babcia  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Featured in A Story of Children and Film (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

'Ah, that's life...'
13 November 2006 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

The title character of Yaaba says of a woman having an affair, '...she may have her reasons'. (Or so the English subtitle runs, as I cannot speak More). Yaaba could be likened to Renoir's La Regle du Jeu in that it is sympathetic with all of its characters. The script suggests that 'Everyone has his reasons' : thus we can like both Kougri and her husband Noaga who she is cuckolding.

The film appears to be shot with fast stock, it is difficult to detect artificial lighting in the shots. The compositions are not obviously artificial either, with the bustle of village (in deep focus) creating an open framing and camera-work which is unobtrusive. This realism created by the cinematography is part of sympathy the film creates - because it does not appear to manipulate or distrust its characters.

Similarly the film has a plot, but apparently 'incidental' action submerges it. Early in the film a characteristic deep long shot allows us to follow Bila and his father, but the dominant focus is actually on a random shepherd who briefly holds most of the screen space. Then instead of following Bila, the camera switches to Kougri, bringing in the narrative of her and her lover, unrelated to the title character. The film hides its plot to appear unmanipulated.

The clearly artificial element of the film is the musical score, though for the most part the film uses 'found' sounds, crickets, the wind and the background chatter of voices. The music is used to create subtle motifs to enhance the realism of the film though. For example, after Bila gifts the stolen cockerel to Sana, the score accompanies a pan of the bush which stops 'some time later' on the scene of the pair eating the chicken. It is as if Ouedraogo creates a buffer with the score and the pan so that ellipsis does not artificially juxtapose two shots.

Yaaba is a typical realist film. The unobtrusive form allows the camera to 'wander' through the village like an impartial observer, taking in an earthy mix of sex and chickens. This makes the characters sympathetic and creates a strongly humanistic impression, more powerful than Bila's sententious repetition of Sana's '...she may have her reasons' (which might have been a Hollywood director's choice to convey a film's 'message' eg Rick's speech in Casablanca).

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